Saturday, 21 February 2015

Plane Driving


Flying to the Canary Islands? It's not that different to travelling by car.... is it?

We’re shooting off to the Canary Islands in a few days, and naturally, we’re flying there. The boat takes too long. By the time your average tramp steamer has covered the 2,000 miles from here to Lanzarote, the pubs are shut.
I’m luck inasmuch as flying doesn’t bother me. I made a study of it years ago and I know what's going on most of the time. There are differences to driving a car, but they depend on your point of view.
For example, at a certain altitude usually somewhere above 25 feet you’ll hear the engines die off. There’s no need to panic. They’re not cutting out. The driver has simply shifted into top gear and he doesn’t need to lay the pedal to metal anymore. It’s a bit like reaching 70mph on the motorway. You don’t need your toe hard down to maintain it, unless you’re still in third gear, in which case you’d better plan on stopping at every other service station to top up the tanks, especially if you’re going on a long journey. Well it’s the same with a plane, except that there aren’t many service stations at 35,000 feet. Come to that, there aren’t many on the M6 North of Chorley, so there’s hope yet.
To make turns, the pilot pulls the control column one way or the other, but instead of turning the front wheels, it operates the flaps which make the aircraft tilt, changing the centre of gravity and pushing it into a turn. Afterwards, he pulls the stick the other way, changing the flaps and to righting the aircraft. On my car, you turn the wheel, the car tilts and turns, you straighten the wheel and it goes straight ahead, but it still tilts because the rear springs are shot.
Flying is incredibly safe. The pilot has any number of onboard warning systems to tell him when things are going to go wrong before they actually do go wrong. My car has a diagnostic system, too, but it tends to tell me when things are going wrong after they’ve done so. What is the point of a warning that flashes “ABS failure imminent” when your bonnet is already embedded in the back doors of that van in front?
Naturally the pilot of a modern aircraft doesn’t do most of the work. His autopilot does it for him. The last time I left the car on autopilot, we almost ran through the front windows of a butcher’s outside Tesco.
I’ll leave you to ponder that while me and Her Indoors zoom off to Lanzarote and in the meantime be good, and if you can’t be good be careful. If you can’t be careful, take up woodwork. It’ll keep your hands busy.
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